Timothy Egan won the 2006 National Book Award for The Worst Hard Time, his chronicle of the 1930s Dust Bowl catastrophe as experienced by ordinary people. His new book, Short Nights of The Shadow Catcher (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $28), is an equally vivid and engaging account of the life of Edward Curtis (1868-1952), the brilliant photographer of Native Americans. Hailing from Seattle, Curtis began tinkering with cameras as a boy and was largely self-taught as a photographer. He was also an amateur anthropologist and archeologist, gradually combining his interests to document Native American culture. At a time when popular media scorned American Indians, Curtis, dubbed the “Shadow Catcher” by the Hopis, dedicated himself to presenting these peoples with sympathy and dignity—as is apparent in the examples of his work included in this book. Unfortunately, Curtis was also an amateur businessman and died penniless.
This unique and lively political history by the Washington historian and journalist James Srodes focuses on half a dozen young professionals born in the late 19th century who lived near one another On Dupont Circle (Counterpoint, $26). The group included Felix Frankfurter, Walter Lippmann, and the three Dulles siblings, John Foster, Allen, and Eleanor, all of whom would become prominent in their respective fields—as would Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt, who also moved into the neighborhood in the pre-World War I era. Early progressives, their idealism fueled their efforts to create a better world. And if Roosevelt was disappointed by the compromises of the Treaty of Versailles, Srodes shows that these remarkable individuals’ unflagging belief in humanity is a legacy still very much alive today.
News of Iraq rarely turns up in U.S. media reports nowadays. But Michael R. Gordon and Bernard E. Trainor, two veteran military correspondents, have stayed on the story and done an important service for history by writing The Endgame: The Inside Story of the Struggle for Iraq, From George W. Bush to Barack Obama (Pantheon, $35). This is the most comprehensive account to date of the ill-fated U.S. war in Iraq. Drawing on many interviews as well as quite a few classified documents, the authors trace the full arc of the American experience in Iraq, from the Bush administration’s mismanagement of the initial years of occupation to the Obama administration’s missed opportunities in setting Iraq on a more stable course. They break new ground, particularly in documenting how Obama fumbled chances to reengage with Iraqi leaders and shape a long-term strategic partnership with Iraq. Instead, the president remained narrow-mindedly intent on winding down America’s military involvement.